It’s been weeks since I flew on Georgia-at-War or done any DCS World multiplayer. I did have a brief opportunity to hop on and do some flying and it shows just how quickly the edge that you develop goes away unless you fly all the time. A tale of one of my sorties on the Georgia at War shows that some extra flying and a little luck might be needed in future missions!
First mission out I picked what has become my go-to arrangement: a pair of AGM-88 HARM missiles on the outboard pylons, a pair of AIM-9X’s on the wingtips, a pair of AIM-120B’s (due to limited supply of the C model) on the intake pylons and three fuel tanks. This is a fly almost anywhere and kick down the door kind of setup and it came in handy on this first sortie.
As the sun rose, I set off with less of a mission and more of a goal of providing SEAD and CAP support for the rest of the team. I figured the mission would present itself as I approached the target area and I was right.
GCI went sunrise about the time I entered into the area that was hotter. With several dozen Allied aircraft operating near the frontlines and about 2/3rds of them on datalink, it was relatively easy to get an overview of the situation.
To the south, Su-27s were fighting with F/A-18s and F-14s off the carrier. In the north it was me, a couple of F/A-18C’s, an F-14B and a couple of AV-8B’s and A-10C’s. Ample striking power… yet we were up against a half dozen bandits across south and north and all of them were gunning for us.
With the friendly F-14 engaging with Phoenix missiles it was up to me to deal with the SAM site – a pesky SA-6 that had started locking up Allied fighters. His next target? Me.
Mudspike! With the RWR blaring away and SAM illuminated on the threat panel, it sounded like a tense time in the cockpit, however, in this instance I was ready. Air-to-ground mode was already selected, I had my HARM’s ready for launch, and GCI had directed me almost directly to the SAM site. I was just waiting for him to launch.
And he did! SAM launch down on my 2:00 low and the change in tone on the RWR was all that I needed to know.
I watched the missile trail up from its launch site, slightly adjusted course, and switched Master Arm to the on position.
Just a little closer…. and launch. Magnum, times two, for best effect.
In truth, I fumbled a bit with the launch button and both missiles streaked away a little closer together than I had wanted to. But they were on their way and tracking the target.
Now it was time to defend. My turn was less coordinated than it should be but I still managed to get my aircraft at about 90 degrees to the launch site and started into a nose over followed by a climb out. My reading on SAM evasion tactics is that you want to “throw shapes” at the missile and force it to correct for your changing position and deprive it of as much energy as possible.
At the same time the goal is to make it hard to detect and if you can slip into the Doppler notch of the guidance radar, you might just be able to get out of trouble.
My tactics aren’t flawless here but it did work as multiple launches were evaded.
Better still, my two HARM missiles arrived on target and arrive they did!
I didn’t know it at the time but the mobile launch radar unit was hit. It exploded only moments after being struck by both missiles. Even without this knowledge, the SA-6 had disappeared from radar and I let GCI know that we likely had one SA-6 site down.
And then things got worse
Unfortunately, my early success in combat did not cover up for my lack of air-to-air practice recently. With a couple of friendlies down, another in trouble, and a pair of Su-27s bearing down on friendly strike aircraft, I was directed to engage hostiles still further to the east and into the mountains.
With a chaotic situation unfolding in-front of me, and a mess of aircraft involved, I had to hold fire until I was sure that I had locked on to a Flanker and not a friendly aircraft. That put me in range of their R-27ET’s – a very impressive long range IR missile.
With my AMRAAM away and waiting for it to go active, the only warning I had was a faint white trail out ahead of me.
Too low for aircraft contrails and no warning on the RWR so this was definitely an R-27ET. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time. I tried to throw off the missile and started popping flares but to no avail.
It was all over.
My modern air combat air-to-air abilities are still not where they need to be. My trade with enemy aircraft is maybe 2:1 or 3:1 against some relatively high skill AI pilots. Whenever they throw something new at me I seem to get a missile in the nose and it’s time to hit the refly button.
In the postmortem, I try and figure out what I can do better next time. Better situational awareness is always something important and in this case I was fighting against an enemy with 5-8,000 feet extra altitude on me giving them and their missiles an advantage of gravity.
I could have waited for extra backup from other fighters – though GCI did direct me to help so in this case I was the cavalry and the cavalry got beaten up as badly as the aircraft we were trying to help.
I should have gone for an evasive more quickly on recognizing the smoke. Evading a long range IR missile is still outside of my usual experience and I popped too many chaff before realizing that it was flares that I needed.
There’s probably more that I need to do to get better in this area. More tutorials, more practice, and more flying all contribute to that combat edge. When I fly a lot I’m far sharper, make decisions more quickly, and live through more sorties. When I don’t and I get back into things – the loss of that edge shows and I get shot down far more.
GAW may be a co-operative server rather than a PVP competitive one but the action is still extremely intense. That keeps me coming back… because in a flight sim, you can always hit the refly button.